Saturday, July 2, 2011

To Be Less Mocking of Others

My New Year's Resolution for this month is to be less mocking of others, taken from Alma 5:30-31 - which says: 

And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions? Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved! 


As I generally do, I want to define "make a mock" and "heapeth upon him persecutions" - especially since I am struck by the peculiar phrasing of both of these statements. When we consider the word "mock", we always use it as a verb - as in "to mock" I'm not sure I have heard, ever, it used as a noun in the way it is used in this verse - to "make a mock".  Also, I think few people consider mocking someone to be such a heinous action that it risks one's very salvation.  Thus, I turn to the dictionary first - and, interestingly, there are three definitions that are slightly different but apply to the usage of the verse. I want to discuss each one separately to begin my resolution posts this month.  

1) a contemptuous or derisive imitative action or speech; mockery or derision 


One way to "make a mock" of someone is to imitate that person in a contemptuous or derisive manner.  This is the most obvious way, since the tone and visual expression used is blatant and undeniable.  However, it is the mocker who uses this action - who expresses mockery or derision toward someone else; this definition does not equate precisely to "making a mock" of another.  This first and most common definition - the one that everyone understands instinctively - does lead to the second definition, and the second definition fits more fully the scriptural usage in Alma 5:30. 

2) something mocked or derided; an object of derision


Actively mocking or deriding someone turns them into an "object of derision", which leads to the third and most interesting definition in the dictionary - one I honestly have not considered prior to my contemplation this week. 

3) an imitation; counterfeit; fake 
 
 
The thought that struck me is that turning someone into an "object" robs them of their individual worth - and it also robs them, in a real way, of their ability to act and not be acted upon.  Thus, making someone "a mock" turns a real person into a caricature - and it's always easier to deride an imitation, a counterfeit or a fake than it is to deride a fully complex person.  Turning someone into an object, therefore, is the first step to dehumanizing him - and dehumanization is perhaps the worst thing that can be done to someone, since taking away one's divinely given individuality and turning them into merely an "object" (and, specifically, an "object of derision") denies the very purpose of creation, the Fall and the Atonement.  It also provides justification for "heap(ing) upon him persecutions".  
 
Thus, the warning: 

Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved! 

As I contemplate this new definition, I realize I am not immune to the tendency to mock - and I immediately think of at least two situations where I have overlooked the complexity of someone's situation, reduced each of these people to a caricature and used that simplification to complain about them in such a way that I have made a mock of them and heaped persecution upon them.  I have allowed my frustration about certain circumstances to move me to something of which I need to repent, so much of my focus for the upcoming week will be on seeing, admitting and acknowledging the complexity of the people and their circumstances and, thus, fully humanizing them once again in my own sight. 

6 comments:

Dallas, Dad, Big D & I said...

That was excellently thought through and written clearly for understanding. Thanks so much for that explanation. It gives me much to consider as I enjoy joking and teasing but must see that I do not mock. Thanks again.

ji said...

Thanks!

Rich Alger said...

+1

Anonymous said...

I've had some great experiences that have caused me to repent of mocking-gently-groups or individuals.I still do it,mostly to make myself feel better when they have or achieve more than I do,it comes out of envy for me.I don't think I've ever been malicious,and I kinda need the odd vent,but I'm grateful for the lessons that I've started to learn.I think objectification of anyone is fundamentally wrong and problematic,and something we always have to watch out for in ourselves.

Scott said...

I mocked a deacon today, and he mocked me back. It was a beautiful moment.

But that's not really the kind of mocking you're talking about, is it?

Papa D said...

I have a naturally teasing personality, and I have to be careful about how much and whom I tease. Generally, I don't see teasing as mocking - but it can be actual mocking masquerading as teasing (or become actual mocking quite easily).